UK health experts are warning parents to pay more attention to their children's diets, as a new report finds that one in 10 six-year-olds are obese.
The report from the state's Health Development Agency says that obesity in children is rising by nearly 1 per cent annually. By the time children reach the age of 15 nearly one in five, or 18 per cent, are obese.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of research and information at the agency, added that there were no signs that the upward trend was slowing down.
The report, which makes headlines in all of the national media today, suggests that obesity could be prevented with an integrated approach involving parents and schools.
"The research indicates that parents can make a huge impact by changing the whole family's approach to diet and by encouraging the family to become more active and avoiding a couch potato lifestyle," chairperson of the HDA Dame Yve Buckland, told a news conference yesterday.
She added that parents could be a major force in promoting healthy eating and challenging food advertising directed at children.
"It is parents who fill the lunch boxes and who pay at the check-out, not their children."
The report analysed reviews of diet, physical activity and behavioural approaches to tackling the problem. The HDA is currently working with national research agencies on advice on tackling obesity but more research is needed into the best methods of prevention, in adults and children, and how to maintain weight loss, said Professor Kelly.
In the UK, obesity kills more than 30,000 people a year and costs the NHS an estimated £2.6 billion a year in treating conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. This figure is expected to rise to £3.6 billion by 2010, according to the agency.